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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

104                               THE GAY GENIUS

Su Tungpo now wrote his famous nine-thousand-Word letter to the
Emperor, and was prepared to be dismissed. He and Szema Kuang
and Fan Chen had carried on the fight together, but Szema and Fan
had quitted in disgust and anger. Fan Chen, later related to Su Tungpo,
had served in'the imperial secretariat under the last two emperors.
Fat and soft in appearance, he had the strength of steel in his character^
When he left, he said in his letter of resignation: "Your Majesty is
disposed to take frank criticism, but your minister obstructs it; Your
Majesty loves the people at heart, but your minister is oppressing them
in practice." The Emperor showed this letter to Wang Anshih during
a court audience, and Wang's face blanched. Some of those close by
reported that they saw his hands holding the letter shaking with rage.

Szema Kiiang had been sent to an outpost in Shensi in September
1070. He had been slow to give up. It was after three exchanges ot
earnest if bitter letters with Wang that the complete break came. Th^
Emperor was still hoping for him to return to the court, for he had"
repeatedly told the other ministers that he felt safe from committing
bad blunders so long as Szema Kuang was by his side. Again and
again the Emperor called him to the capital, and Szema Kuang refused.
He had said enough. If the Emperor could not be dissuaded from
riding on the stubborn mule to.perdition, his duty was done. When
he decided to quit altogether and live in retirement, his anger was
unrestrained. He wrote to the Emperor: "Whoever .agrees with
Anshih is right, and whoever disagrees with^^An^hih is wrong.
Those who lick Anshih's spittle are the^loyal ministers', and
those who oppose his policies are the 'scheming intriguers'. . . .
I have disagreed with Anshih, and am therefore both wrong
and a 'scheming intriguer' in Your Majesty's opinion. I ask for
your decision. If my crimes are like those of Fan Chen, allow me to
lay down my office as you allowed Fan Chen to do. If my crimes are
worse, exile or sentence me to death, and I will gladly accept my fate."

From now until the Emperor's death, sixteen years later, Szema
Kuang was to shut himself up completely to devote himself to the
monumental history already begun nine years before. Later, when
Emperor Shentsung had dismissed Wang Anshih and wanted to call
Szema Kuang back to power, his one reply was still, was the Ernpero|
ready to reverse his economic policies? Thus the two poles of political
thought stood, each unmoving and immovable to the end. Yet in the
first year of the next emperor, when Wang Anshih died and Szema
Kuang was on his death-bed, the order he gave as premier then was:
"Wang Anshih was not too bad a person. His only fault was his stub-
bornness. Let him be buried with all the honours the court can give,"

Su Tungpo's nine-thousand-word letter to the Emperor i& important
as embodying his political philosophy, and as indicative of his personal